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Investiture Controversy: History and Significance

Investiture Controversy: History and Significance

The Investiture Controversy was a conflict that erupted between the Church and Medieval Europe monarchs over the appointing (investing) of powerful local church figures like bishops and abbots. It took place around the 11th and 12th century. This SpiritualRay article gives the definition, history, and significance of the Investiture Controversy, for better understanding.
Anup Patwardhan
Did You Know?
The word investiture is derived from Latin, in vestire, which means dress in robe.

Historically, the powerful local authorities such as bishops of cities and abbots of monasteries were named or 'invested' by the monarchs. These positions were usually occupied by people who were related to the monarchs, or the people who had their unwavering loyalty with the monarchs.
These office holders were said to 'receive the Church'. This also included the property associated with the Church and its rights. In return, the prelate would swear his 'fealty' or allegiance to the monarch. The property associated with the Church included significant amount of wealth and land. The sale of Church offices generated substantial revenue. This was one of the main reasons for the monarch to invest the Church offices. The sale of Church offices was known as 'simony'.
After the Gregorian reform, a faction within the Church rebelled against simony, and wished for investiture removed from under the control of the monarchs who owned the land, and through charity had allowed the building of churches. This movement gave rise to the Investiture Controversy.
The conflict that arose between the Church and Monarchy of Medieval Europe in the 11th and 12th century is the actual Investiture Controversy definition. The Investiture Controversy is also known as 'Lay Investiture Controversy' or 'Investiture Contest'.

The significance of the Investiture Controversy is the power shift it brought in Europe from the Medieval monarchs to the Church. The strife between the Church and the monarchs began with the struggle over investiture between Pope Gregory VII and Henry IV: Holy Roman Emperor.
Timeline of the Controversy

1059 Synod of the Lateran bans lay investiture.
1073 German King Henry IV opposes the ban on investiture, starting the Investiture Controversy.
1075 Henry IV defies the ban on investiture, and invests the archbishop of Milan, Italy.
1076 Henry IV challenges the gained papacy of Gregory VII, that leads to his excommunication by the Pope. In the same year, the king apologizes to the Pope, and the excommunication is lifted.
1080 Henry IV is excommunicated again, as the Pope realizes that the king has no intention to abide by the new rules. The king responds by appointing an 'anti-pope'.
1095 Council of Clermont bans lay investiture again.
1105 Henry I of England and Pope Paschal II reach a compromise that reverses the earlier papal decree banning investiture.
1111 Henry V of Germany opposes the solution to the Investiture Controversy offered by Pope Paschal II, and imprisons the Pope after he refuses to anoint Henry V as emperor.
1112 During imprisonment, the Pope accepts the king's terms on investiture, along with a promise to crown Henry V as emperor, and never to excommunicate him. Once freed from captivity, the Pope rejects the terms he had agreed to during his imprisonment.
1122 The Pope and monarch compromise in a meeting at Worms, known as the Concordat of Worms. This put an end to the Investiture Controversy.

Important Documents
  1. Dictatus Papae: This was composed by Pope Gregory VII in 1075. It put a ban on investiture. It also stated that the Pope alone could appoint or depose the offices of the Church.
  2. Letter to Henry IV from Pope: Gregory VII had sent a letter to Henry IV to obey the Papal mandates, or face the consequences. This letter was sent in December 1075.
  3. Henry IV's Reply: Henry IV replied to the Pope's letter in January 1076. This letter, that initiated the tussle, was drafted in Worms, at the council of imperial church leaders that Henry IV had convened.
  4. Excommunication of Henry IV: This document was about the first excommunication of Henry IV by the Pope. It was also about the deposition of the king from his throne. This was issued in February 1076.
  5. Concordat of Worms: This document put the curtains on the Investiture Controversy. It was signed by Emperor Henry V and Pope Calixtus II, in 1122.

What was the Outcome of the Investiture Controversy?
As a outcome of this controversy, the role of the monarch in appointing a Church office was eliminated. The king could no longer claim that he had the authority from God to appoint Church authorities. It also resulted in increased papal strength.

The Investiture Controversy is regarded by many as the turning point of Medieval civilization. This also led to the final stages of acceptance of Christianity by the Germanic people. This contest had a major impact on the political and religious scenario in the Middle Ages.